Jack Sheppard



31st March 1909 - 14th July 2001

Jack Sheppard was a pioneer of cave diving in the UK and a founder of the Cave Diving Group. Latterly he was joint President of the group with the late Graham Balcombe. He began by rock climbing with Graham, when they both worked for the Post Office on the design and installation of radio aerials. Next they took up caving with the Northern Cavern and Fell Club but their attentions turned to the caves of the Mendip hills.

Together with Balcombe he made an early attempt on Swildon's sump one in April 1934 with a long snorkel tube. Due to the depth of water encountered - deeper than the sump we know today - this did not succeed. No suitable techniques or equipment were available to pursue such a project and so Jack constructed an experimental dry suit, incorporating lighting and a telephone. The air was surface fed from a modified bicycle pump.

Using this crude-sounding but effective apparatus he made the UK's first cave dive in Swildon's sump 1 on the 4th October 1936. Successfully passing the sump and exploring the first few hundred feet of Swildon's 2.

After an eventful war in the Royal Signals he joined Graham Balcombe over Easter 1946 at Ogof Fynnon Ddu in an attempt, unsuccessful in the event, on the resurgence. This led however to the formation of the Cave Diving Group.

Latterly Jack did not pursue cave diving actively, but set an example of pioneering new techniques and developing special equipment to suite special needs that remains the hallmark of the Group to this day.

Thanks to John Buxton and others for the information in this article. Errors are mine.
R Murgatroyd.

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